Poem: Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “In Goya’s Greatest Scenes We Seem to See”

Image: Photo by Leonardo Cendamo/Getty Images

In Goya’s Greatest Scenes We Seem to See . . .

In Goya’s greatest scenes we seem to see
                                           the people of the world 
       exactly at the moment when
             they first attained the title of
                                                             ‘suffering humanity’  
          They writhe upon the page
                                        in a veritable rage
                                                                of adversity   
          Heaped up
                     groaning with babies and bayonets
                                                       under cement skies  
            in an abstract landscape of blasted trees
                  bent statues bats wings and beaks
                               slippery gibbets
                  cadavers and carnivorous cocks
            and all the final hollering monsters
                  of the
                           ‘imagination of disaster’
            they are so bloody real
                                        it is as if they really still existed

    And they do

                  Only the landscape is changed

They still are ranged along the roads
          plagued by legionnaires
                     false windmills and demented roosters
They are the same people
                                     only further from home
      on freeways fifty lanes wide
                              on a concrete continent
                                        spaced with bland billboards  
                        illustrating imbecile illusions of happiness

                        The scene shows fewer tumbrils
                                                but more strung-out citizens
                                                                     in painted cars
                               and they have strange license plates   
                           and engines
                                           that devour America

Back to “Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “’In Goya’s Greatest Scenes We Seem to See’”

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